This is a new series from guest author Lee Rothery. He isn’t on social media but if you like what you read, or have any questions then feel free to comment below and he will answer them.
Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Eric Backlund, I’m a 26-year-old man who has harboured ambitions to be a football manager from an early age often showing people at school my Football Manager tactics but no one ever seemed to be as obsessed as what I was. I hail from a small town in Sweden called Atvidaberg and I forgive you for not having heard of it before. My upbringing was quite middle class born into a wealthy family. I was always academically gifted at school and had a keen interest in numbers from an early age. This lead me to attend the very prestigious Karolinska Institutet where I studied Applied Mathematics but I dropped out after two years.
The reason for me dropping out was because of (what I thought) my burgeoning football career, I have always been a fan of my local side Atvidabergs and I’ll always remember the day I thought I was going to make it. The previous weekend I had played in a national schools competition final where we won 3-1 in the final and I played particularly well that day creating two of our goals from central midfield. Anyway, I digress, my PE teacher took me aside to say he had a call from a local scout for Atvidaberg and could I come for a trial in two days! I was only fourteen but I was over the moon. Yes was my immediate reaction!! I attended a trial and got offered schoolboy terms which went well and I was playing for the reserves when I was sixteen but things went sour, I took a nasty challenge to the knee and in a nutshell I never really recovered and got released. It was at this point I felt I needed to focus on my studies but by the second year I realised how unhappy I was and dropped out.
During my early 20’s I suffered with depression spending all my free time writing to local clubs and any club to ask if they could give me a trial in managing any one of their clubs but all got refused, the closest I came was managing a lower league club and doing quite well. It was at this time when my Father had been offered an excellent career opportunity in China so off we all packed and went just a few short months later.
I recall my Father showed me some clips of teams 50-60 years ago and out of them all I really admired the Argentine manager Bielsa as well as the intensity of Jurgen Klopp. I admired the way in which those teams worked so hard and pressed constantly. I always made a mental note to myself to never forget the principles of those famous tacticians. Anyway, my Father had made some strong connections in Chinese high society and mentioned in passing to an associate how his son wants to be a football manager and trust me ‘he knows his stuff’. This then lead me to a bizarre meeting in which the CEO of a huge organisation ‘Dalian Aerbin Group Co Ltd’ who said he is buying a football club who’ll play at the huge 60,000 seater stadium simply called the Dalian Sports Centre and would I be interested in managing them. Of course I said yes without blinking and got the job right there on the spot! He said for obvious reasons he could only offer me £3,100 a week on a 1 year deal as it does pose a huge risk and I agreed. What he didn’t know was I would have worked for free! Below is more information on the club.
For someone of my age I realise just how much of a huge opportunity this is for me and my fledging career but one I intend to grab with both hands. I am a little worried about being able to communicate with my players but I will make it my personal ambition to learn Mandarin as soon as I can, this will I hope, ingratiate me with the players and fans. During my first meeting with the players it didn’t really go well, even with the use of an interpreter I could tell the players were still harbouring feelings of resentment towards the treatment of the previous incumbent who had only lost his job 5 days ago .I do hope that in time they will accept that those decisions were not of my making and that I am here to help them to become better footballers.
With the backing of a CEO we have some very good budgets and when I was told what the budgets were and what we are currently paying I was delighted, we also had some spare cash for transfers too if needed. Just because I like number crunching I am still going to be sensible especially given the league rules so I want to focus on Chinese players mainly.
With that in mind I decided to spend time analysing the squad, this resulted in me culling 10 players and a further 4 players leaving the club on deals in the next window. Which left me with a good number of 28 but this is something I will be looking at in more detail after the season, it’s never easy to take over a club during a season but all I can do is keep the same staff for now and do our level best to reach the top 4 for Champions League football.
In terms of my approach to player recruitment and philosophy I think it’s so key to have a sense of a club DNA and my ideas are going to be based on the below. All my players need to be good in their role attributes but also need to pass a second filter which is our club DNA based on teamwork & work rate and being comfortable with the ball in tight spaces.
For now this is the end of this introduction.
I will be in touch at the end of the season for a quick review before a bigger post about next seasons pre-season!
Wish me luck